Saturday, December 27, 2008

Getting Started...

I’m excited to say that Donnie and I have been living frugally for over two years now. We’re in much better financial shape than we’ve ever been, and, more importantly, we’re consuming fewer of our earth’s limited resources.

In this economy, more and more of my friends and family are also eager to adopt a simpler, more frugal lifestyle. Fortunately, although the change can seem daunting at first, it’s fairly easy to get started on the path to frugal living.

Here are some of the things Donnie and I did when we first decided to start living more frugally. How did you make the change from consumerism to a simpler lifestyle? Or have you always been cost-conscious?

We started eating at home more often. Even though our food mostly came from jars and boxes in the beginning, we were still spending less than we would have on takeout. Plus, we were building the skills and habits of frugal cookery that we still use today.

We started a change jar. This has been one of the greatest tools in our effort to live more frugally. It's amazing just how much money you can accumulate in a simple change jar.

We stopped buying everything we wanted. I know this sounds obvious, but it wasn't at the time. We had become accustomed to simply purchasing anything that struck our fancy, whether it was books, DVDs, clothes, movie tickets, or meals out. Breaking this habit was hard, but we've made some real progress. Now we try to stick to the necessities of life, and skip the extras.

We paid closer attention to energy expenses. We started actively turning lights off before leaving the room. We shortened our showers, and turned the water off when we brushed our teeth. We stopped using heat at night, and instead piled on the blankets. In short, we became more aware of how we were using our energy, and saved a good bit of money as a result.

We switched to generic brands. Before we knew the first thing about couponing or CVSing, we decided to purchase only generic brands at the grocery store. We didn’t save nearly as much as we have through coupon shopping, but it was a good first step, and it made an immediate dent in our grocery bill.

Thanks to these changes, we're in much better shape than we were two years ago. How about you?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Deck the Halls on a Dime

How do you create a festive, frugal holiday decoration in fewer than sixty seconds? Fill a juice glass with candy canes, and trim with a bright red bow!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Hospitality

This holiday season, it really is possible to entertain family and friends on a frugal budget. You may not be able to serve the best wines, the fanciest appetizers, or the most elaborate gourmet meals. Nevertheless, you can still prepare delicious, home-cooked dinners for your guests to enjoy.

These simple meals are delicious, filling, and easy to prepare in large quantities. Best of all, none of them will break your budget—which means you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your party, without worrying about the cost.

Choose any of these options, add a fresh green salad and a homemade desert, and you’re all set.

Bon apatite!

  • Homemade chili, grated cheese, sour cream, cornbread, tortilla chips

  • Sausage or meatballs, red and green peppers, homemade tomato sauce, crusty Italian sandwich rolls, Parmesan cheese

  • Creamy potato soup, crumbled bacon, grated cheese, diced green onions, homemade whole wheat bread

  • Baked lasagna, garlic breadsticks, olive oil and fresh black pepper for dipping, roasted red peppers

  • Belgian waffles, assorted fresh fruit toppings, whipped cream, breakfast sausage

  • Chicken and green pepper fajitas, homemade tortillas, refried beans, sour cream, grated cheese

  • Roast chicken, fresh corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade biscuits

  • Hot roast beef and gravy, horseradish, sliced cheddar cheese, Kaiser sandwich rolls, potato chips, carrot sticks

How do you entertain your friends on a dime? What are your favorite party recipes? Is entertaining a regular part of your budget?

Originally published April 2008.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sensible Snacking

I hate to admit this, but I almost always put on weight during the holiday season. After all, it can be difficult to eat healthfully when surrounded by so many delicious cookies, candies, cakes, and pies!

But an expanding wasitline isn't the only downside to holiday excess. It can also be easy to break your budget buying fancy frozen appetizers, the ingredients for too many baking projects, and other snacks to serve your friends and family.

Fortunately, there are many healthy, frugal alternatives to pricey, processed holiday treats. Here are some of my favorites. What are yours?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Super Simple Slow-Cooked Supper

This is one of my favorite frugal crockpot meals. It's cheap, tasty, healthful, and requires almost no effort to prepare. Plus, it's an extremely versatile dish. You can add or subtract ingredients based on what you have on hand.

Black Bean Salsa Chicken

In the morning, place in a large crockpot:

One boneless, skinless chicken breast
One 15 ounce can of black beans
One 16 ounce jar of salsa

Swish a little water in the bottom of the jar and the can, and add that liquid to the crockpot as well. Cover the crockpot, and set it to "low."

Let the chicken, salsa, and beans cook all day. It's impossible to overcook, I promise. The flavors just keep getting better!

About 30 minutes before dinner, thoroughly shred the chicken. Then add to the crockpot:

1 cup of your favorite grated cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen corn

Mix well. Let this mixture continue to cook as you prepare the rice.

In a large pot, bring to a boil:

2 cups uncooked rice
3 1/3 cups cold water
A pinch of salt

As soon as the water boils, stir the rice well with a fork, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let the rice simmer for 25 minutes. During that time, do not uncover the pot AT ALL.

As soon as your rice is done, stir it directly into the crockpot.

That's all there is to it! You now have a wholesome, delicious dish that can be eaten as a filling for hard or soft tacos, as a topping for tortilla chips, or simply by itself.

Donnie and I like to top it with salsa con queso and sour cream, but you could also use guacamole, black olives, pico de gallo, or fresh lettuce and tomato. Use your imagination!

How do you use your slow-cooker to make supper simple?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 12/1

We're having a good bit of rice this week!

Oatmeal with brown sugar and dried cranberries
Leftover Thanksgiving goodies - cookies, muffins, pie, and cake (healthy, right?!)
Milk, hot tea

Apples, oranges

Pasta with cream cheese basil sauce, bacon, and peas
Chicken quesadillas topped with salsa and sour cream, broccoli
Steak fried rice loaded with veggies
Burritos stuffed with salsa, black beans, chicken, cheese, corn, and rice
Pork chops in spicy plum sauce, broccoli, rice

For more great menu plans, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!